A Travellerspoint blog

Samoa Tsunami

Tuesday September 29, 2009

This is a picture of our team for the competitions at the Tahiti-Moorea Rondevouz. Three of these guys are tsunami survivors. On the left is Jer and one person over is his son Mike from Eva (the boat that was swept down main street in Pago Pago). In the middle (with the hat) is Kirk from Galivanter, who's story you'll find at one of the links we provided.

On Tuesday morning after waking up and walking over to the yacht club, we were told by other sailors that a tsunami watch was in effect. Word spread quickly as people discussed the decision to motor out of the harbor or stay, news crews started showing up along the docks to interview boat owners and we went down to Mandolin and turned on the marine radio to listen for any changes or updates. Many people left work, some untied the dock lines and headed out to deeper water, while others decided to wait it out. The news announced that it would hit around 1:00 p.m., if it hit, but around 11:00 a.m. the watch was lifted and there was only a high current advisory for boats and swimmers near the shoreline for the remainder of the day. With the watch canceled, we felt safe staying tied to the dock, but decided to stay aboard the boat just in case (that was after I “convinced” Chris that it probably wasn’t the best day to go surfing).

Shortly after 1:00 p.m. Chris noticed a strong swirling current around the boat and called for me to come up and see it. It was nothing severe or alarming, but definitely a noticeable difference from the smooth still water usually in the harbor. The tide moved into the harbor and around the boat like a slow steady river, stirring up sediment and turning the water brown and murky. After a few minutes, this same surge sucked gradually back out to sea, changing the direction of the current to out flowing. Being that we are tied to a floating dock, the dock raised up along with Mandolin, so the difference in water height wasn’t blatantly obvious right next to us, but as we looked across to the stationary fuel dock we could see the water level rise and fall about a foot in either direction from sea level. After the water receded we had thought that the effects were over, so we were surprised to see the tide coming back in again, only to repeat what it had just previously done before. As this continued over and over again, more and more people began to notice, and spectators began gathering and watching from the sides of the docks. We did not feel that our boat or life were at any risk, but it was a little unnerving feeling the boat rise and fall and listening to straining dock lines creak and stretch around us. This continuous ebb and flow of water continued in a repetitive pattern throughout the day, weakening as the evening approached.

About the third time that the tide flowed out, I started to think about how amazing it was that we were experiencing the effects of an earth quake that occurred hours prior, from thousands and thousands of miles away. It was mind boggling to me how noticeable the current and tide change was, from an occurrence that happened so far away and that the energy from it could be carried all the way across the ocean, reaching us here in Hawaii. It was at that moment that I began to think of all of our cruising friends that were still out traveling on their sailboats in the South Pacific. If we were feeling the results of the earthquake this far away, what were they experiencing?

I thought of how flat and low Christmas Island and many of the atolls are out there, and then began to worry. We hadn’t seen the news and didn’t know exactly where the epicenter of the quake was or what destruction it may have caused, so we decided to plug in the computer and pull up any information that we could on the internet. Being that the islands that were affected are so isolated, there was still very little news or pictures posted online. Chris came across a report that stated that the earth quake measured 8.3 and occurred near Samoa, and that the towns of Pago Pago and Apia had been wiped out. There are so many islands and harbors in the South Pacific that it is hard to remember the names of places and where exactly each of our friends are, but Samoa and Tonga is basically the next stop that most cruisers make after French Polynesia, and we knew that almost everyone we knew was near there. We logged in to our email accounts and noticed some of the most recent emails were from these towns. The last email we received from one couple was in Apia, but that was two weeks ago and they could be anywhere right now. We tried to get on the radio net that evening to see if we could hear any news, but it is impossible to get a good signal from in port and we weren’t able to hear a thing. The Puddle Jump group on the internet was our best source of information. Cruisers who were able to get an internet connection were posting any updates and any experiences that they had or anything that they had heard from others. The cruising community, though spread across thousands and thousands of miles of ocean, is small and tight knit, and through some of the postings we were able to verify that some of our friends were safe.

As the week has gone on, more and more postings and pictures have been updated on cruising sites and blogs, and the list of boats and cruisers who are safe is fortunately growing longer. So far, from what we have read, it seems the cruisers anchored and docked in the Harbor of Pago Pago have had one of the “roughest rides”, literally. For instance, one father/son crew that we know aboard sailing vessel Eva, was aboard their boat when it floated down the main street, was left aground, then swept back out into the harbor as the tidal wave surged in and out over the island. Thankfully, it seems so far that most of the cruisers in that area have come out unscathed except for the very sad story of a retired couple who’s husband was untying their boat’s dock lines when he was swept away and later found deceased.

We have still not heard from everyone that we know, but islands are far and wide apart, and communication is not always readily available, so we will continue to check the nets and read other cruiser’s updates. Although natural disasters, war and destruction are constantly in the headlines of newspapers and nightly news, it is common to become numb to it all, but when it touches you personally it feels very different. If Chris and I had continued on our journey, it could just have easily been us out there.

We have read some amazing stories, both from people we know, and other cruisers who experienced the tsunami first hand. These are stories and pictures that will probably not make it in to your Sunday paper, and are written by people like us, so we wanted to share them with you and we hope you have the time to read through them. They are amazing encounters that speak for themselves…

Go to the following for cruisers tsunami stories:
http://learnativity .typepad. com

Much love,
Lori and Chris
SV Mandolin

Posted by lserocki 19:01 Comments (0)

Sept. 13 safe arrival

We arrived safely at Oahu this morning around sunrise. Been drying everything out and wiping the salt out of the boat. Will write more later...

Posted by lserocki 19:50 Comments (0)

Sept. 12 update

Sept. 12 19:48 zulu
N 19 39 W 157 07
Course 338 degrees at 6 knots
Just around 100 miles to go, favorable E winds, should be in Oahu by tomorrow (sun.) morning

Posted by lserocki 13:10 Comments (0)

Sept. 11 update

Sept 11 zulu, 18:11 zulu
Position N 17 45 W 157 07
Heading 105 T
Speed 4-5 knots
Wind out of the E/NE at app. 20-25 knots
Cloud cover 16%
Swells/Seas confused from all over

Sailing in a washing machine.

Posted by lserocki 11:20 Comments (0)

Sept. 9 update

Sept 9 zulu, 17:41 zulu
Position N 16 03 W 157 34
Heading 105 T
Speed 4-5 knots
Wind out of the NE at app. 15 knots
Cloud cover 70%
Swells 5 ft out of NE

The wind and the seas calmed down a bit last night and we started up the iron genny to head a little more east so that we don't overshoot Oahu. Now the wind has picked up again and we are about to pull the sails back out.

Posted by lserocki 11:00 Comments (0)

Sept. 8 update

Sept 9 zulu, 19:11 zulu
Position N 14 40 W 157 28
Heading 357 T
Speed 4-5 knots
Wind out of the NE at app. 20 knots
Cloud cover 50%
Mixed swell up to about 15 ft. and short seas
Still staying above 100 nm day, but choppy seas and big waves slowing us down

Posted by lserocki 12:25 Comments (0)

Sept. 8 update

Sept 8
Time 1930 zulu/utc
Position N13 01 W 157 17
winds 25-30 knots out of the North/North East
Course 340 deg True
Speed 3.5 knots

Recap from Sept. 6, enroute Kiritimati to Hawaii
"There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home."......Hmmmm.......Well, it might of worked for Dorathy but it's not working for us. Maybe we need those red ruby slippers instead of clicking our heals in our bare feet or dock shoes---Do you think some red watercolor paint would make a difference?

Right now nothing sounds better than a nice dry bed...ON LAND. Maybe even a tent in the middle of the desert would do. The sheets and blankets aren't even really necessary, just a decent pillow and some firm ground would make me happy.

Let's see, so yesterday (Sept. 6) started out with consistent 15-20 knots of wind and 6 foot seas under partially sunny skies. As the afternoon progressed and we neared the ITCZ, the clouds on the horizon ahead of us began to build vertically into big puffy cumulus nimbus clouds. Those are the cotton candy clouds that look 'oh so cute and pretty' from the land; you know- the ones that are filled with all kinds of fun shapes, like bunny rabbits, elephants and teddy bears. Well, not sure if you are all aware of this, but those "cute" fluffy cotton ball clouds are actually schitzofrantic, two faced, monsters. Yes, this is true, because, as soon as the sun goes down and the air begins to cool, they turn an ominous dark grey and wait until you are just underneath them to drench you in pelting rain and blast you with wind....

.........AAAAAAHHHHHH....that thought was literally just interrupted by a surge of salt water spraying through the window (a tightly closed window, that is) above me and on to the computer in my lap as the boat was enveloped by a huge crashing wave. Sorry mother nature, I apologize for the harsh words above, I take it all back...

So, as I was saying, the sky was full of beautiful, expanding, pearly white clouds, brimming with moisture, and kindly awaiting our close proximity so they could bestow their clean fresh rain water and cool refreshing breezes upon us. ;-) (cough, cough, excuse me while I clear my throat). We had a nice consistent breeze moving us along at around 6 knots and no squalls during the day, or even all of last night for that matter. As the afternoon passed, the seas began increasing in swell size and the wind started picking up to around 20 knots. I actually thought for a moment, as I gazed out with dreamy eyes towards the distant horizon, how lucky I was to witness first hand, from the comfort of our boat and home, both the beauty and power of the great blue ocean. Well, ignorance is bliss they say, and later, as I sat there with a towel (one of only two clean towels left) draped over my head and the computer to protect it from any further unexpected waves crashing through the window, I came to the conclusion that being in the middle of the ocean with confused seas that consist of 25-30+ knot winds and 12-15 foot waves breaking over the boat, wasn't too fun and that really the only word that I could find to describe the experience is ...freakin scary! (Yes, I realize, that's two words)

Despite the tumultuous sea and building chaos, I actually was quite comfortable and content, until about 7 p.m., shortly after dark. As the day's events unfolded, the first "uh oh" happened around noon when the laptop and contents in all of the starboard side cabinets were flung onto the floor, without warning, when a large and heavy wave struck us on the side. The funny thing is (actually it's not that funny) that I was just contemplating if and where we should stow the computer to keep it from being launched off of the nav. station and potentially getting damaged. As I was pondering this, I stood up and walked over to the galley to pour myself a glass of water when all of a sudden, BOOM and CRASH. The wave sent us hard over to the port side and dumped the contents from behind the settee onto the floor. Among these were a large canister of dried milk, a bottle of oyster sauce, a bag of flour, some other food items, and... our laptop computer. Yes, the computer that we use to look at charts, to plot our course, to send and receive email, to download weather, and where all of our pictures from this trip are saved (I've been meaning to make a copy of them....just in case). Fortunately, somehow, the computer is still working after making a 3 foot leap off of the desk and landing on the hard wood floor, thank goodness! I did though, find it extremely ironic, that after 5 months of crossing oceans through various weather conditions, that the computer, which has never moved an inch before today, was sent flying only moments after I thought to possibly move it somewhere safer. So now, it has been moved and we will cross our fingers that it continues to work well, because with out it ...we are...basically...screwed. To add to the irony, I am now typing on the ACER (a little lap top), which also has never had any issues prior to today, but was just sprayed down with salt water as I mentioned above, through a closed window that has also never shown problems of major leaking.

The next exciting event, around dusk, was shortly after the waves had built to an average of 12 feet (with short 4-6 second periods, from all different directions). I was up for watch and hand steering the boat, instead of having the wind vane work as an autopilot, to ensure that we went over the waves at a better angle. I've grown used to seeing white caps and foamy tops of waves as the seas and wind builds, but never until this evening had I actually experienced or seen a breaking wave in the middle of the ocean. But, it seems, that it was my lucky day. So after diagonally coming down the back side of a large wave, I saw an even bigger set wave heading straight towards the boat and begin to break. My hands clenched the wheel (and I think I might have let out a screem) as I watched, with big bulging eyes in disbelief, a frothing white wall of foam tumble down over the entire boat. Although, the whole thing seemed to happen in slow motion, instead of ducking for cover, I froze like a dear in the headlights, awaiting the coming blow. Fortunately, I was under "the protection" of the cockpit enclosure and standing far enough aft to not get wet. I highlight in "the protection" of the cockpit enclosure, because the only reason the wave didn't make it back to me was because it broke over the bow and up over the dodger (which is the plastic window and roof in front of the cockpit to protect us from spray), but a little later I would discover that the enclosure is actually only a false sense of security, because, like the window down below, somehow, from just the right direction, a wave can find it's way through and do what it likes with you.

This leads to the third exciting event of the day, which happened shortly after dinner. It was about 7 p.m., Chris had just laid down for a nap and I was on my way up to the cockpit to check the radar and scan the horizon for any approaching squalls. I clipped my tether onto the wooden handle just inside of the companion way (that is the opening where you enter the boat, where the stairs are) and climbed out into the cockpit. I stepped outside and just as I turned around to look at the radar, with out any warning, I was hit by a wall of water that soaked me from head to toe. Granted it was only water, but it caught me completely off guard and scared the living begeezes out of me. Not only did it make it's way through the tightly zipped up complete cockpit enclosure, but it also poured down through the opening of the companion way, drenching the floor, cabinets and drawers of the galley. Still in shock, with tears in my eyes from being frightened, I stumbled down the companion way stairs in a daze. As I descended, Chris lifted his head from resting and instead of asking "honey, are you OK ?", playing his best role of the electricity police on the boat, he said "don't forget to turn the radar off!". At that moment, I believe I began to cry and said something back to him along the lines of..."bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep," which translates in to "could you please be quite about the radar and realize the state that I am in." After seeing my sad and dripping pitiful self standing in a puddle in the galley, like a lost wet dog, he realized what had just happened and came over to comfort me.

From that moment on, I decided that I would not venture up in to the cockpit, under rough conditions, at night alone, anymore - except during emergencies. I came up with a new routine of standing up inside upon the companion way stairs, and looking up towards the radar through clear hatch from below. Then, and only then, if I see an approaching squall or ship that we need to avoid, will I actually go up to the steering wheel to alter our course.

So, once I had dried off, regained my composure and tried my new radar technique for watches, I sat down on the settee to "relax" for a few minutes. But with the boat bucking and pitching, leaping and pounding in to the waves ahead of us and shuttering with the loud sound similar to crashing a car into a brick wall, I found that "relaxing" wasn't as easy as I hoped for it to be. Then, as I stared out towards the portlight (sailboat windows) across from me, watching them fill to the tops with water, then methodically drain down as the waves crashed over the deck, I started to ponder my situation and began asking myself questions like; I wonder how much force the boat can take before it breaks in half? Will the weather get any better or will this be our reality for the next month? And, what the heck are we doing out here in the middle of the freakin' ocean? The most entertaining question that I came up with while sitting in my underwear and wearing only my tether and inflatable suspenders(because it's way to hot to attempt wearing clothes, and really we're not expecting any company out here any time soon) was along the lines of - I wonder if I should put an outfit, or at least a sarong, in our ditch bag (that's the bag that you bring with you on the life raft if your boat sinks, it has essential things like water, food, flares etc.)? Because, I reasoned with myself, the only thing that might be worse then drifting aimlessly in a big rubber tube across the ocean if the boat were to sink, would be the embarrassment of being butt naked, with only a life jacket on when they come to rescue us.
Lots of love,
Chris and Lori

Posted by lserocki 18:40 Comments (0)

Sept. 7 update

Sept 7 zulu, 18:07 zulu
Position N 11 09 W 156 30
Heading 335 T
Speed 6-7 knots
Wind out of the NE at app. 15-20 knots
Cloud cover 80% Cum. nibm. with increasing vertical build up and a very light layer of Ci. clouds above that
North East Swell about 12 ft. at 6 seconds, with additional confused seas combining with it (it's a little more organized today than last night)

we'll write more later today
Lots of love,
Chris and Lori

Posted by lserocki 12:00 Comments (0)

Sept. 6 update

It is Sept. 6 Zulo, 20:06 Zulu.
Position N 09 27 and W 156 05
Wind 15 knots from the NE
Course 350 degrees
Speed 5.7-5.9 knots
Barometer 1003 (we think we need to recalibrate the barometer, but meanwhile we'll just observe the trends)
No squalls last night, but a lot of Cum. Nimb. clouds ahead, and we assume we're just about to enter the ITCZ.
Lots of love,
Chris and Lori

Posted by lserocki 08:00 Comments (0)

Sept. 5 update

Saturday Sept. 5 (00:43 UTC on Sept. 6) position N 07 40 and W 156 11 , speed 7-9 knots!!!!!, flying the full jib, staysail and trisail, course 10 degrees true, confused seas 6-10 feet, it's hot out!

Hello from Chris and Lori here. We are still moving along making excellent time. We had a record breaking distance of 170 nautical miles in a 24 hour period yesterday. The faster we go, the faster we get to Hawaii!!!! We've been checking in daily with the Pacific Sea Farers Net over the radio from 5-6 p.m. daily. They plot our position on a chart/map online that you can check out by either googling "Yotreps" and then looking for "ships position" or "ships track" or possibly if you go to "sailwx.info" You can see our daily progress there and also get an idea of what other sailboats are out there too.

Would love to write more, but still a little queezy.

Lots of love,
Chris and Lori

Posted by lserocki 18:25 Comments (0)

Sept. 4 update

Sailed all night between 7.5-9.0 knots, it's the fastest we've seen Mandolin go. Pretty bumpy with confused seas about 2 meters. No squalls the entire night, but a thin cloud layer has developed above the puffy clouds (sorry I don't know the technical terms off hand).

Our updated position is N 06 51 and W 157 019 at 1734 Sept. 5 UTC, heading app. 10-15 degrees, speed app. 6.0-7.0 knots, wind 20-25 knots out of the East/SE. Barrometer 1103.

It's hot...daydreaming about cold popsicles, fresh fruit and veggies, and ice cubes!

Chris and Lori

Posted by lserocki 10:55 Comments (0)

Sept. 4 update

We had a beautiful night sailing under a full moon. Saw a "moonbow", like a rainbow but in shades of grey. It did start to get a little squally but nothing out of the ordinary. We have had consistent winds and are happy with our progress so far.

Our updated position is N 04 06 and W 157 05 at 1734 Sept. 4 UTC track 10 degrees speed app. 6.0 knots, wind 15 knots out of the East. Barrometer 1103.

A little too rocky to write emails, so we'll write more if the ride gets smoother or my stomach adjusts.
Chris and Lori

Posted by lserocki 13:10 Comments (0)

Mandolin departure from Christmas, bound for Hawaii

Hi Lee,
Our updated position is N 02 56 and W 157 15 at 0421 Sept. 4 UTC track 25 degrees speed 5.5-6.0 knots, wind 15-18 knots out of the East.
Lori and Chris

Chris and Lori

Posted by lserocki 21:35 Comments (0)

Mandolin departure from Christmas, bound for Hawaii

We finally are on our way, yay! We left today, Sept. 3, at 1900 utc. We have app. 20 knots of wind out of the E/SE and are going 20 degrees app. 6.5-7 knots with one reef in the main. Seas are app. 3 ft. at 6 sec. out of the East. Sunny skies, 30% cloud cover, barrometer 1004. We're movin, we like that!
We're heading north towards Hawaii. We've set our course to the eastern most island, the Big Island, and will see how the wind goes and where it blows us. Since the wind generally comes out of the East and North East, we could even end up in Kuaii. The weather looks good for the next 3 days, we'll be monitoring it closely along with a couple other weather people who are helping us. We still need to keep our eye out for any formations of tropical storms or hurricanes, but it seems to be a good window right now.
We're really happy to be on our way!!!!!!!!! We'll keep you updated daily,
Chris and Lori

Posted by lserocki 13:35 Comments (0)

Mandolin update Aug. 26 Christmas Island (Kiritimati)

We are still anchored at Christmas and plan to stay here or possibly move on to Fanning Island until we can be sure to have a clear shot at Hawaii. The tropical cyclones are very active and we are basically sitting on the outside edge waiting for it to settle down. It's kind of like playing "Frogger", except the cars are hurricanes and Mandolin is the frog, and since getting squashed doesn't sound too fun, we'll wait our turn. Fortunately another sailor friend of ours has introduced us to a really nice weather person who has volunteered to help guide us in finding a good window and watch us along the way. Obviously, he can not change the conditions for us, so it might still be a while before we can go north, but it's comforting to have his support.

We have moved across the bay to find some protection from the southerly winds. Although the main town of London was a little dirty (I think they are actually trying to pave the dirt road with beer cans), the island is much more beautiful than popular reviews claim. Here we are all alone anchored in front of a long white sandy beach. We went for a walk yesterday and the sand is as fine as powder. Though there appears to be a small house on the point, the only footprints on the sand are that of hermit crabs and shells are the only litter we have found on this side so far. After finishing a few more boat projects, we hope to explore a little more, and maybe say hello to the people living on the point.

Send us good thoughts of settled weather,

Chris and Lori

Posted by lserocki 20:05 Comments (0)

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